Hi Freddie! What’s your job? And how has it changed over time?
I’m a Software Engineer and most of my work is on the back-end of Tactic - the data pipeline. And explaining my role of continuing to build and maintain the pipeline goes hand in hand with describing the evolution of our department. At first, when I was the only non-founding Engineer, a big part of my job was cleaning up the codebase. I would identify the most important elements for scaled search and move them into a structure that was well signposted.
As the team grew and so did customers, our new challenge was to provide the capacity that would prevent the system from slowing down, as users grew in number. We introduced a queuing system that made the search runs much quicker, and we optimised some algorithms that had been slowing things down. And another big, recent change is that our data engineering team now has lots of specialists with different experiences, which will help us make gains in some specific areas: text-matching and machine learning, to mention two. I’ll be working alongside them to incorporate their experience into our pipeline strategy.
And what did you originally find attractive about Tactic in particular?
When I was looking for a new job and starting to get to know Rudy and Jack, my priority was to work with a particular technology stack. I knew I liked working in Python, I had used ORM frameworks before, like SqlAlchemy, when processing large volumes of data. I was familiar with quite a few languages - but I definitely wanted to find a job using the particular Python libraries that it turns out Rudy and Jack had started using. I also wanted more exposure to cloud computing and here was a great opportunity to do so. For me it’s about the tools of the trade and the computer science, and Tactic ticked those boxes.
What are you excited to achieve at Tactic?
We spent a lot of time stabilising the very early implementations of the system (our central search base) but now we’re at the stage where we have a complete, functioning system taking on increasingly large volumes. Our focus used to be keeping things running at all and now our work is to keep it running smoothly, which is a nice transition! The key is to keep the design as simple as possible; as a code base grows more complex its component parts become simpler by necessity. Imagine building a structure from blocks, rather than carving it from one big piece of stone. You can replace a block, but you can’t recarve a section. So what I’m excited to continue achieving is perfecting those simple blocks that support an increasingly big and complex structure.
What feature are you most excited about, current or future?
It’s hard to narrow it down to a specific feature… I think the aggregation functionality in general is really impressive - you can put it in searches that would end up with an ocean of data on Google, but we pick a condensed set of hyper-relevant answers - that’s amazing. Ordinary search engines give you too much information.
Any work from home rituals?
One really great piece of advice I got recently was from my Optician. She recommended I set a timer every 20 minutes to look 20 metres away for 20 seconds. It definitely helps with my wellbeing and I’ve heard that a lot of other computer scientists and data engineers can get eye strain. I also consider a morning routine - even a short one - the best way to ensure you’re not waking up and immediately logging onto Slack as that’s just not good for you. I like to read before getting into work mode - it’s something I’d be doing if I commuted anyway.
Go-to emojis on Slack?
Well, you can make your own emojis on Slack! I made one of Rudy a long time ago, and now we all have a habit of making emojis out of each other’s faces. And Simon, our designer, created a Tactic emoji based on the logo of the tic-tac sweets.
If you could work remotely from anywhere in the world for a week, where would it be?
For me, the question is more, “where will it be next”?!
I don’t like to fly, but I do love to travel around Europe by train, ferry or coach. I’ve visited quite a few cities now for a few weeks at a time so I can do some remote working alongside exploring. I’m drawn to cities with mediaeval and Gothic architecture. My next destination is Granada, and I’m excited to work with a view of the Alhambra. I love Amsterdam’s old town, Rome, Venice…
I’m going to move on because I’m too jealous. Top things to pack for a day working in an office space?
I always carry a pen and paper. I’m very much into fountain pens - I have a collection, mostly from Japan and the US. I like to write manually for to-do lists and ideas, but also sometimes to jot down pseudo-code or draw diagrams. It’s slower than typing, but that makes it more mindful and ultimately you write fewer drafts.
What’s your favourite app in your stack - as simple as sticky notes, or as sophisticated as you like - and why?
I put as much as possible in dark mode. I have a Chrome extension that can activate dark mode for web pages that don’t have a preset option - The Dark Reader.
Dogs or cats?
Burgers or hot dogs?
Mac or Windows?
Slack or Zoom?
Film or TV?
City or countryside?
Both… Different times of year. You wouldn’t want to live with either one forever.
Spring, summer, autumn, winter?
Autumn is best for fashion - you can wear whatever you fancy and be comfortable.
Interested in joining the Tactic team? Check out our open positions here.